I’m not sure Kris Dunn understands how basketball works. That may sound harsh, but it was a constant thought that stayed with me as I tried to decipher what the hell the point guard was actually saying.
For those that may have missed it — which I’m sure is most at this point — Dunn addressed the media prior to the Bulls’ historic home loss against the New York Knicks last week. Mirroring his team’s season, the procession itself was largely much of nothing. There was, though, a truly astonishing quote, one which still has me floored.
Outlining the personal difficulties of this season, Dunn mustered up this iconic grouping of words which I guess we can label as his reasons for an inconsistent year:
Earlier this season, I was being aggressive and it kind of deferred away from Lauri (Markkanen) a little bit. So the next stretch, I kind of sacrificed my role to see how it went. You could say it was for the better. You could say it was for the worse. I really don’t know the answer to that. Going forward, it allowed me to understand who I am as a player. And that’s to be aggressive. I always had that ball in my hands. If I knew we were going to do a multi-ballhandler situation, I would’ve prepped for the summer a little different. But going into the summer, my job was to create for others.
Where do we even start with this? In the interest of your time, I suppose we can ignore the notion that a player can’t be aggressive if the offense is deferred to another. I also won’t crush him for not knowing how to answer if the Bulls were truly better pivoting their offense through Lauri Markkanen (hint: they absolutely were.) The thing I can’t let go, though, is the last few sentences. To be clear, I’m referring to this:
If I knew we were going to do a multi-ballhandler situation, I would’ve prepped for the summer a little different. But going into the summer, my job was to create for others.
Incredible, isn’t it?
Firstly, and I believe I speak for everyone when I say this, but on behalf of everybody associated with the game of basketball, welcome to the modern NBA, Kris. You see, having multiple ballhandlers on the floor has been a trend for some time now. Every team does it. Even the Houston Rockets, who have James Harden posting exorbitant usage numbers, need multiple ballhandlers. They chose to pair their reigning MVP with Chris Paul, arguably one of the greatest point guards of all time. If multiple ballhandlers is a priority for the Rockets, surely it should be for the Bulls?
Seriously, how could Dunn not know the Bulls we’re going to be a “multi-ballhandler situation?” Every single team is (or at least hopes to be.) Is that even something that needs to be said, or is it, you know, just common sense? Surely no one needed to tell Dunn he’d be sharing minutes in the backcourt with Zach LaVine and splitting possessions creating plays?
Going forward, perhaps the coaching staff need dive into details, even when it seems most obvious — don’t assume these players have a base understanding of what the game has evolved into.
If this weren’t enough, the true kicker in Dunn’s words is, if he knew this were to be a multi-ballhandler situation he would’ve prepped differently. We can read into this a number of ways. Knowing Dunn’s flaws, right or wrong, the immediate and prevailing thought is he assumed his role to be the sole playmaker, ball in his hands constantly, so much so that there wouldn’t be a need to flank on the perimeter and do work without the rock, namely catching and shooting jumpers. Of course, dominating the ball and creating plays for others doesn’t preclude a player from working on their broken jumper, but the more you know.
After showing signs of progression last season, Dunn has regressed as a shooter — in year three, the percentage of total field goals from behind the 3-point line plummeted to career lows. Now we know why?
Sure, that’s purely speculative on my part. Perhaps that’s not what Dunn meant when he said he would’ve prepared differently. But what else could it mean? That he’d improve his movement off ball, cutting and slashing to the rim while LaVine took charge of the offense? That didn’t happen, either.
Maybe it’s a mindset thing? Dunn did say his job coming into the season was to create plays for others. As the team’s point guard, that’s a given. Ok, but how does that change his role if he has to split ballhanding duties with his teammates? His job is still to be a playmaker, be it as the primary initiator or as a secondary release option should the first action be contained.
Ultimately, any angle we take in trying to understand the true meaning behind Dunn’s words just leads to more questions. All we know is this: Dunn never felt comfortable all season, in himself, his role, and possibly, in his wider understanding of the schematics of a modern basketball.
Year three has been a wasted one for Dunn. As such, his status as the team’s de facto point guard is at risk, as executive vice president John Paxson hinted at during his end of season press conference.
I do see our starting lineup with three legitimate 3-point shooters in Zach (LaVine), Lauri (Markkanen) and Otto (Porter Jr.), so a point guard who can get those guys opportunities will be a priority. Kris is going to have opportunity because he’s under contract, but we understand as an organization that’s a position that we’re going to have to address if we’re to make a step in the right direction. No beating around the bush on that one.
While Dunn may have spent parts of this season unsure of his role, it would seem his pending status on the team moving forward is a message that’s come through.
It’s a business. They’re going to do what they’re going to do. I’m just going to control what I can control. I’m excited to get back in the gym and do what I do.
If he’s still part of the team next season, hopefully this time around he will prep differently.